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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, after nearly 14 years of almost perfect service from my 1996 Mk 1 1.8 LX (apart from the obligatory dodgy heater, which finally gave up 3 years ago) the cylinder-head gasket blew this afternoon. Leaving us with a car puffing massive plumes of white smoke, like the Vatican on wheels, and stinking the cabin with a burnt oil aroma.

Thing is, due to the Mondeo having been so reliable, I have no idea how much of a ball-ache trying to do a repair will be if I try to DIY it... and also what the likelihood is that we've knackered the engine anyway.

It was driven for about 2 miles blowing smoke before we could find somewhere safe to stop.

Any engine gurus out there who could give me some advice. Also, any committed amateurs out there who've tried this repair? How easy is it?

Hope you can help!
 

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MEG Commander
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6,006 Posts
Chances are you have knackered the engine driving it for that long, I've had experience of 2 Zetec head gasket failures and the resulting overheating in one case warped the head badly and in the other just wiped the piston rings out resulting in no compression at all in any cylinder.
Anything is fixable tho so it depends how much time and money you want to put into getting it repaired versus picking up another cheap car?
 

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Super Moderator
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if you could source a pretty cheap cylinder head and gaskets required, and you're handy with the spanners, there would be no harm in having a go, pop the head off if you've the kit to do so, and see what it looks like in there... at the end of the day you can't make it any worse!
 

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Aussie Mondy Fiddler
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376 Posts
Not a zetec motor I know but, when my old Daewoo ceilo head gasket let go I drove about a mile n half home with the head blowing smoke, swapped the head gasket over 8 hours and fired up first time.

Personally the only way to know is yo have a go and if all else fails swap the motor
 

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Tbh it shouldent do any damage as long as the cambelts not jumped any teeth also if it hasent over heated and lost all its oil,rover k series engines are bad for this but this aint no rover engine! it should be ok as its a mazda engine,the only thing to worry about engine wise is the lower bore walls thats the only floor with the zetec block,the haynes manual is your best friend in this case if your abit of a diyer! where you from? might be able to give you a hand if your close?
 

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Big Daddy
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662 Posts
I would also be wondering why it blew. I have never experienced a head gasket failure on a silver top without it being caused by something else, that something else is always overheating. Not saying that the gasket cannot just blow for no reason on a zetec, just unusual in my opinion.

So whatever you do decide, make sure you check the cooling system - pump especially. If you do go ahead and repair the engine, that would be an ideal time to change the pump anyway, especially if it's not been changed before). When the bearings start to wear on the pump it allows coolant to escape through a weep hole in the casing of the pump. I think it was designed like that in order to give you early warning of the pump failing, but i have experienced one that leaked very badly without any prior warning, and by bad i mean it dumped all the coolant out of the engine within the space of a few miles.

You only have to overheat these engines for a few minutes before the head can warp enough to cause a head gasket failure. And i know from experience it is easy to drive for more than a few minutes without looking at your temperature gauge.

Another thing to remember is that if you do have a large coolant leak, it will not be long before your temperature gauge will drop down to cold, even though your engine is cooking itself, that's because once the coolant level as dropped far enough, it will no longer flow through the thermostat housing - thus it will not be flowing past the temperature sensor. Another tell-tale sign of coolant loss is a loss of heat coming out of the heater vents.

If you do take the head of the car, make sure you check it for warps. You will need a straight edge, something like a steel ruler that is about 20 inches long. Check the face of the head from corner to corner and from one end to the other. The ruler should make contact with the face of the head all the way along it's length without any gaps. If the head is not totally flat it will need to be skimmed or replaced. (Last time i had one skimmed it cost about £25-£30, but that was about 6 years ago.

If your handy with the spanners i would not say it was a difficult job taking the head off and replacing it, but it is rather time consuming if your doing it for the first time. You will need a good set of Torx bits and a torque wrench, plus a selection of spanners etc. You will also need a short length of flat bar, about 6 inches should do it. It needs to be 5mm thick if i remember rightly. That is needed to re-time the engine, it slots into the ends of the cam shafts to hold them in place whilst you fit the timing belt.
 
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